Carnival is one of the most traditional popular festivals in the history of mankind. It may have started in the pagan rituals celebrated to pay homage to Bacchus, the god of wine; in the feasts organized to honor Apis in Egypt; or the Roman Saturnalias, to commemorate the god Saturn.
Some historians state that the first carnival celebrations date back to ancient Sumer, over five thousand years ago. This custom passed onto Egypt and the Roman Empire, from where it spread into all Europe and was brought to America by the Spanish and Portuguese sailors in the times of the colonies and the conquest in the XV century.
With the passing of time, the celebration of carnival has been adopted by the peoples who have a Christian tradition before Lent. The word carnival derives from the Medieval Latin name carnelevarium -"remove the flesh"-, which refers to the religious prohibition to eat meat during the forty days of fast of Lent.
At present, carnival is very much rooted in popular celebrations. It has lost its religious meaning and its period of partying has been extended to the first weekends of March.
During colonial times in Spain, while the Catholic Monarchs were ruling, it was a custom to wear disguises in order to play practical jokes in public places. In 1523, King Charles I passed a law forbidding masks and disguises. It was king Phillip IV who restored the splendor of the masks.
As time went by, carnival began to adopt different styles according to the customs of each country. In America, it incorporated Indian elements and it even reached mystic Pre-columbian touches.
Today, this popular expression is celebrated in many parts of the world and their venues attract thousands of tourists from other latitudes to feel, throb and sing to the pace of the comparsas. Thus, the Brazilian Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, the Bolivian Carnival of Oruro, the Carnival of Venice in Italy or the Argentinian Carnival of Gualeguaychú transmit the audience happiness and make participants and viewers become infected with the audacious rhythm of the batucadas, as they enjoy a show teeming with unprecedented brightness, light and sound.